by suzanne selfors

illustrations by dan santat
Little, Brown and Company
New York Boston
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also by suzanne selfors:
The Imaginary Veterinary Series
The Sasquatch Escape
The Lonely Lake Monster
The Rain Dragon Rescue
The Order of the Unicorn
The Smells Like Dog Series
Smells Like Dog
Smells Like Treasure
Smells Like Pirates
To Catch a Mermaid
Fortune’s Magic Farm
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons,
living or dead, is coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Suzanne Selfors
Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Dan Santat
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading,
and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful
piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the
book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the
publisher at Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Visit our website at lb
Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
First Edition
July 2014
Library of Congress Cataloging
Publication Data
Selfors, Suzanne.
The Order of the Unicorn / by Suzanne Selfors
illustrations by Dan Santat.—First edition.
pages cm.—(The imaginary veterinary
book 4)
“Ten-year-olds Pearl and Ben continue their apprenticeships at Dr. Woo’s Worm
Hospital as they travel with Dr. Woo to the Tangled Forest and the Dark Forest in search of a
missing unicorn, and learn more about the villainous Maximus Steele”—Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-316-36406-5 (hardcover)—ISBN 978-0-316-32339-0 (library edition ebook)—
ISBN 978-0-316-36410-2 (ebook) [1. Unicorns—Fiction. 2. Imaginary creatures—Fiction.
3. Veterinarians—Fiction. 4. Apprentices—Fiction.] I. Santat, Dan, illustrator. II. Title.
PZ7.S456922Or 2014
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in the United States of America
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For unicorns everywhere
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chapter 1:
Pancake Sandwiches
chapter 2
Clubs and Crowns
chapter 3
Mail-Order Worms
chapter 4
Tabby’s Trip
chapter 5
Guard Dragon
chapter 6
The Pool Beneath
chapter 7
Kid Sandwiches
chapter 8
The Broken Blessing
chapter 9
Not a Goat
chapter 10
Portal Training
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chapter 11
Dragonfy Hill
chapter 12
Steele’s Story
chapter 13
The Unicorn King
chapter 14
The Positive Path
chapter 15
The Slippers’ Secret
chapter 16
The Dark Forest
chapter 17
Jaws of Steel
chapter 18
A Pair of Crowns
chapter 19
A Doctor’s Duty
chapter 20: Worm Trouble
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he first thing many people do after getting
out of bed is put on a pair of slippers.
The first thing Pearl Petal did on that
Friday morning was slip her feet into a pair of
leprechaun shoes.
Shoes made by a real, living, breathing lepre-
They fit perfectly around her medium-sized feet.
Pink was not her favorite color, but she wasn’t about
to complain. She’d been told by the leprechaun
that the shoes did something special. But he hadn’t
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told her what. This lack of
information was keeping
Pearl awake at night, and
she found herself doing very
strange things in an attempt
to solve the mystery.
The shoes didn’t make
her fly—that’s for sure.
She’d tried wearing
them while jumping
off the kitchen coun-
ter and flapping her
arms. She’d ended up
with a twisted ankle
and a scolding from her
father. They didn’t make her invisible. She’d tried
sneaking into the kitchen for a late-night helping of
ice cream. Her mother had looked right at her and
said, “It’s too late for sugar, young lady.” They cer-
tainly didn’t make Pearl strong. She’d tried lifting
the car, but all she’d gotten were some weird looks
from passersby.
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Maybe Cobblestone the leprechaun was a big,
fat liar. Or, in this case, a little, fat liar. Maybe the
shoes did nothing at all.
Even if that proved to be true, no one else in
Buttonville had shoes created by a cobbler from the
Imaginary World. That fact in itself made Pearl
After opening her bedroom window, Pearl stuck
her head outside to see what the morning might
bring. Across the street, a flock of pigeons preened
their feathers as they perched on the Town Hall
roof. The scent of sizzling bacon drifted up from
the Buttonville Diner, and Mr. Wanamaker’s keys
jingled as he opened his barbershop. The morning
sky was cloudless, which made Pearl happy. It was
also dragonless, which made Pearl extra happy. No
clouds meant sunshine. No dragons meant that
certain secrets were still…secret.
She closed the window. Then her gaze swept
across her bedroom shelves, which she’d filled with
some of her prized possessions. Her bird-nest collec-
tion included nests from a blue jay, a robin, and a
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hummingbird. But the pigeon’s was the most beau-
tiful because pigeons liked to decorate with ribbons,
bits of plastic, and buttons.
Pearl’s board game collection included Monopoly,
Scrabble, and Pony Parade. The goal in Pony Parade
was to move a plastic pony from the forest, where
it was lost, to its home in the barn. Standing in
the way were obstacles, such as a slippery banana
peel, a pollywog pond, and a swarm of bees. If you
landed on the golden square, you got to trade in your
pony for a plastic unicorn. That was Pearl’s favorite
part. Although she’d outgrown the game, she still
longed for a pony. She’d spent a great deal of time
trying to persuade her parents to buy one. She
imagined braiding its mane and riding it around
town. When her parents pointed out that they didn’t
own a barn, Pearl said, “We can keep it in the alley.”
Mr. and Mrs. Petal hadn’t liked that idea.
Pearl knelt on the carpet and opened the Pony
Parade box. She’d hidden three very special pieces
of paper inside: a certificate of merit in Sasquatch
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Catching, a certificate of merit in Curing Lake
Monster Loneliness, and a certificate of merit in
Rescuing a Rain Dragon. Each certificate was
signed by Dr. Emerald Woo, a veterinarian for
Imaginary creatures. Now that she’d been working
as Dr. Woo’s apprentice, something as ordinary
as a pony sounded boring. There were so many
Imaginary creatures that could be kept in the
“Pearl, Ben’s here,” her mom, Susan Petal, called
from the kitchen.
“Okay. Coming!” As fast as she could, Pearl
stuffed the certificates back in the box, then set the
game on the shelf. She scrambled out of her pajamas
and into her favorite clothes—a plain, well-worn
T-shirt and a pair of shiny red basketball shorts.
Then she pulled her blond hair into a ponytail
and hurried to the kitchen.
“Hi, Ben.”
“Hi, Pearl.”
Ben Silverstein was sitting at the table. Pearl
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had only known him for a week, but he’d become
her very best friend in the whole world. After all,
when two people travel together through interdimen-
sional space, climb the face of a rain dragon, and
seal up a hole in her head—not to mention stalk
a sasquatch, save a dragon hatchling, and ride in a
lake monster’s mouth—they can’t help but become
best friends.
“So nice that you stopped by,” Mrs. Petal told
Ben. She was standing at the kitchen sink, rinsing
the coffeepot. “How’s your grandfather?”
“He’s fine,” Ben said, setting a napkin on his lap.
“He’s doing some stuff at the senior center this
“Your grandfather’s a very nice man.” Mrs.
Petal was already wearing her work apron, with
its embroidered slogan: YOU GET MORE AT THE DOLLAR
STORE. She dried her hands on a dish towel. “You
kids eat as many pancakes as you like. I’ll be unpack-
ing a shipment from China.” Then she walked down
the stairs and disappeared into the Dollar Store,
which the Petal family owned and operated.
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Pearl sat down and grabbed two pancakes. She
covered one with syrup, laid four strips of bacon across
it, then set another pancake on top. Ben watched
with wonder as she picked up her creation with both
hands. “What?” she asked. “You’ve never made a
pancake sandwich? It’s delicious.”
He looked around, as if making sure no one
would scold him for bad manners. Then, with a
shrug, Ben set aside his fork and grabbed two pan-
cakes. His sandwich had jam in the middle.
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“So, what kind of creatures do you think we’ll
meet today?” Pearl asked. This had become one of
her favorite questions.
“Naw deeah,” Ben said, which was really “no
idea,” but his mouth was stuffed.
“I hope we meet a fairy. I really, really, REALLY
want to meet one.” Pearl dipped her sandwich in
more syrup. “What size do you think they are? Are
they small like a housefly, or maybe big like a bat?
Do you think they’re pretty? Do you think they can
speak our language? Do you—”
Her stream of questions came to a stop. She’d
spied something on the table.
Something that made her blood boil.
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clubs and
earl’s blood didn’t actually boil. That’s just a
way of saying that she felt so angry she got
hot all over.
The morning newspaper lay neatly folded on the
corner of the table. Staring right at her, from the
front page, was Pearl’s archenemy, Victoria Mulberry.
The photo showed Victoria’s smiling face, her
braces looking like railroad tracks. Thick glasses
were perched on the end of her nose, and her frizzy
hair was pressed beneath a baseball cap embroi-
dered with the words WELCOME WAGON.
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It wasn’t unusual for Victoria to get her photo in
the paper. She was always achieving one thing or
another. She’d organized a search party when Mr.
Mutt’s dog went missing. She’d picked up garbage
in the park after the storm of the century. She’d
even raised money to help the seniors buy pudding
for pudding day. Those were nice things to do, but
Pearl knew the truth. The real person behind those
deeds was Victoria’s mother, Mrs. Mulberry, who’d
made it her life’s work to get her daughter’s photo
in the paper.
Pearl dropped her pancake sandwich and reached
across the table. With sticky fingers, she unfolded the
newspaper and read the following article aloud.
The International Welcome Wagon Society
has announced that Victoria Mulberry, age
10, is to become the newest member of the
Red Wagon Club.
“This is a very important club,” Victoria’s
mother, Martha Mulberry, said. “Only a few
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people are chosen each year. Victoria is a role
model for kids everywhere.”
When asked why she was a role model,
Victoria replied, “I don’t know,” and went
back to reading her book.
“Victoria earned this honor because she
gets straight A’s and she doesn’t get into
trouble like a certain other girl in our town,”
Mrs. Mulberry added.
The ceremony will be held at 6:00 PM Friday
at Town Hall. A representative from the
International Welcome Wagon Society will
award Victoria with a special crown that is
worn only by Red Wagon Club members. The
entire town is invited to watch the ceremony.
Cookies and punch will be served.
Pearl stared at the page. “‘She doesn’t get into
trouble like a certain other girl,’ ” she repeated. “That’s
so rude.”
“She probably wasn’t talking about you,” Ben
said. He drank some orange juice.
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“Of course she was talking about me.” Pearl had
a reputation. She was the town troublemaker, and
everyone knew it, even Ben. “Why are they giving
her a crown? That’s crazy. Who wears a crown?”
“I don’t know. A princess?”
“Yeah, well, Victoria’s no princess.” Pearl pushed
the newspaper aside, then sat back in her chair. A
bad feeling washed over her, as if a gray rain cloud
had settled on top of her head. “Victoria’s probably
going to wear her crown all over town.”
“So what if she does?” Ben asked.
Pearl frowned. Ben clearly didn’t understand
what it was like to grow up in a small town, with only
a few kids in your grade. When you were labeled
the local troublemaker, you couldn’t get rid of that
title, no matter how hard you tried. Just once it
would be nice to see her own name on the front page
and not followed by the words mayhem, disaster, or
“Pearl,” Mrs. Petal called from downstairs.
“Please take a pancake to your aunt Gladys before
you leave.”
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“Okay,” Pearl said. Then she glanced at the stove
clock. “We’d better hurry or we’ll be late.”
While Pearl and her parents lived above the Dollar
Store, her great-aunt Gladys lived in the apartment
beneath. It wasn’t a typical damp, cold basement with
spiders, cobwebs, and mice. Gladys’s place was warm,
with a soft carpet, floral wallpaper, and two well-
fed wiener dogs. The only thing odd was the smell.
“What is that?” Ben asked, scrunching his nose.
“Mentholated ointment,” Pearl explained. “She
rubs it all over because she has arthritis.”
Aunt Gladys sat in a comfy chair, working a pair
of knitting needles. The joints in her fingers were
swollen and knotted. A ball of yellow yarn lay on
her lap. Another waited at her feet. In fact, balls of
yarn were scattered everywhere, as if a yarn fac-
tory had exploded in her living room. A soft click-
clack arose from her wooden needles.
“Hi, Aunt Gladys. I brought your breakfast,”
Pearl announced. She pushed some yarn aside and
set the plate on a TV tray.
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“Thank you.” Aunt Gladys looked up from her
project, which appeared to be a hat. “Who is this
nice young man?”
“This is my friend Ben,” Pearl said.
“Hello,” Ben said. Then he looked around. “Wow.”
Gladys had knitted practically everything in the
apartment—the sofa cover, the wall hangings, the
pillows, her clothes, and her slippers. She’d even
covered her eyeglasses in yarn. The two rotund
wiener dogs, who were snoozing on the couch, wore
matching knitted sweaters. “You sure like to knit,”
Ben said, giving each dog a little pat on the head.
“I am the Queen of Knitting,” Gladys told him.
Then she reached under her chair and pulled out a
small silver crown. She plopped it on top of her white
curls. QUEEN OF THE KNITTING GUILD was engraved
across the front. “Isn’t it pretty?”
“Yes,” Pearl said. “It’s very pretty.” As she won-
dered what Victoria’s crown would look like, she got
that rain cloud feeling again.
Aunt Gladys slid her project off the needles, tied
a knot, and snipped the yarn with a pair of scissors.
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Then she handed it to Ben. “A gentleman should
always have a nice hat.”
“Thank you,” Ben said. He politely pulled the
hat onto his head. Pearl wanted to giggle. The hat
did not match Ben’s fancy clothes. When she first
met him, his sneakers had been brand-new, his
pants perfectly pressed, and his shirt spotless. He
was looking a bit wrinkly after a few days with his
grandfather, but his clothes were still nicer than
the stuff she got from the Dollar Store.
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“We gotta go,” Pearl said. She kissed her great-
aunt’s forehead. “Remember to eat your pancake.”
“Bye-bye,” Aunt Gladys said with a little wave.
The wiener dogs raised their heads, shifted posi-
tion, and went right back to sleep.
Pearl led the way up the stairs and through the
store, where her parents were unpacking boxes.
“Did you see the article about Victoria?” Mr. Petal
asked. His box was full of pencils.
“The ceremony is tonight,” Mrs. Petal said. Her
box contained sunglasses. “I think we should all go.”
“Do we have to?” Pearl asked with a groan.
“Yes, we do,” Mrs. Petal said. “It’s nice to support
our fellow Buttonvillers. If you’d done something
special, you’d want people to support you.”
But I have done something special, Pearl thought.
She glanced at Ben. They’d both done tons of special
things, thanks to Dr. Woo. Unfortunately, no one
could ever know.
“Thanks for breakfast,” Ben said just before he
and Pearl headed out the door.
“Have fun at the worm hospital,” Mr. Petal called.
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Pearl smiled, revealing the big gap between
her teeth. So what if Victoria got to be in the Red
Wagon Club? Nobody but Ben and Pearl got to work
as apprentices in a secret hospital for Imaginary
But deep inside, Pearl still thought it would be
nice if the people in town thought she was more
than just a troublemaker.
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t might have been a short walk to Dr. Woo’s
hospital had it not been for a bright red obstruc-
“Stop right there.” The bossy voice belonged to
Mrs. Mulberry, who stood directly in their path.
She wore red overalls and a matching red baseball
cap with the words WELCOME WAGON printed on it.
This was her uniform, for she was the president of
Buttonville’s Welcome Wagon Committee, a group
dedicated to welcoming newcomers. But ever since
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the old button factory closed down, people rarely
moved to Buttonville. So Mrs. Mulberry found other
things to do—like spying on everyone who already
lived there. She was a professional busybody. “I
suppose you two are on your way to Dr. Woo’s Worm
Hospital,” she said.
“We can’t talk right now,” Pearl said. What she
really meant was, We don’t want to talk to you,
but that would be a rude thing to say. “We’re in a
“We don’t want to be late,” Ben added.
Mrs. Mulberry was an expert at blocking peo-
ple’s paths. She stood, legs wide apart, in the center
of the sidewalk, holding out her arms like a traf-
fic cop. A small red wagon was parked next to her.
“Not so fast. I’ve got a few questions for you two.”
Drat! Pearl groaned. “Fine, but please make it
Ben stood at Pearl’s side. They’d dealt with Mrs.
Mulberry before. Ever since Dr. Woo moved into
the old button factory, Mrs. Mulberry had been
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trying to make an appointment to meet her. She
was curious about Dr. Woo and desperate to snoop
inside the hospital. So far, she hadn’t been success-
ful, and the apprentices were determined to keep
it that way.
Mrs. Mulberry narrowed her eyes. “How is the
“Fine,” Pearl said.
“If she’s fine, how come nobody in town has ever
seen her?”
“My grandfather met her,” Ben pointed out. “So
did Pearl’s mom.”
“Well, I haven’t.” Mrs. Mulberry folded her arms
and scowled. “I’m mighty suspicious about this hos-
pital of hers. I asked around. No one in Buttonville
has a pet worm. So why would Dr. Woo come all
the way from Iceland to open a worm hospital in a
place where no one keeps worms?”
Pearl didn’t have a good answer. She looked at
Ben. He was quite talented at making up stories on
the spot. He cleared his throat, buying time. Then,
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with a smile, he said, “Iceland is full of volcanoes,
and Dr. Woo got tired of shoveling lava off her front
porch. That’s why she moved.”
Mrs. Mulberry scowled so hard a deep crease
formed across her forehead. “But why would she
only treat worms? Why not dogs and cats?”
“She…” Ben closed his eyes for a moment, as if
conjuring the details for his story. “She only takes
care of worms because…” His eyes popped open.
“Because when she was young, her father was a
fisherman, and you know what fishermen do to
worms, don’t you? They stab a hook right through
them, then dangle them into the water. Dr. Woo
thought this was unfair, so she decided to dedicate
her life to undoing all the wrongs done to worms.”
“Wow,” Pearl said, snickering. “That’s a great
story.” Then she looked at Mrs. Mulberry and added
in a serious tone, “And totally true.”
Mrs. Mulberry reached into her wagon and
picked up a catalog for gardening supplies. “Well,
Dr. Woo won’t see me unless I have a worm, so I’ve
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ordered an entire box of red compost worms. It’s
coming special order.”
“Uh…” Pearl started to fidget. On the one hand,
she was worried about being late to the appren-
ticeship. On the other hand, Mrs. Mulberry had to
be stopped! If she got into the hospital and saw the
creatures that were hidden inside, the secret would
be out and Dr. Woo would have to leave Buttonville.
How could Pearl stop this from happening? “Uh…”
“Dr. Woo only sees sick worms,” Ben said.
“Right,” Pearl agreed. Good point. Problem
solved. “Well, we gotta go.”
“Hold on. There’s bound to be one sick worm
in the box.” Mrs. Mulberry glanced around, then
asked, “How can I tell if a worm is sick?”
“Coughing,” Ben said.
“Sneezing, too,” Pearl added, clenching her jaw
so she wouldn’t laugh.
“Coughing? Sneezing? I knew that.” Mrs. Mulberry
dropped the catalog back into the wagon. “I expect
to see both of you at Victoria’s ceremony tonight.
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Membership in the Red Wagon Club is highly selec-
tive. This is an important moment for the Mulberry
family. Don’t be late.”
“Late?” Pearl cried. She grabbed Ben’s wrist and
stared at his fancy watch. “We gotta go!”
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